New Delhi: Kerala on Thursday assured the Supreme Court that it would protect the Mullaperiyar Dam from any attacks by protesters while Tamil Nadu opposed Kerala's suggestion that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh convene a meeting of the two states for resolving the dispute.
Stating that it was the constitutional responsibility of the central government to intervene for the resolution of dispute between the two states, the apex court's constitution bench of Justice DK Jain, Justice RM Lodha, Justice Deepak Verma, Justice CK Prasad and Justice Anil R Dave expressed its inability to suggest to the prime minister to convene a meeting of the two states in the face of stiff opposition from Tamil Nadu.
"This may not be possible," the court told senior counsel Harish Salve who had appeared for Kerala.
"Very scheme of the federal structure mandates the Union of India to take steps to resolve disputes between two States," the court said adding that "it is constitutional scheme".
It further said that "Union of India must take a lead role and not be a mute spectator".
The court's pronouncement came when senior counsel Raju Ramachandran appearing for Tamil Nadu opposed the suggestion by Salve that the court should ask the prime minister to convene the meeting of the two states.
Salve said that "water disputes are resolved and not adjudicated" and cited the instance of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asking the chief ministers of Punjab and Haryana to sign the water sharing accord way back in the 1970s.
At this, Ramachandran told the court not to make such a suggestion as it was premature. He told the court there was not sufficient scientific data for the prime minister to convene such a meeting. Let the high-powered empowered committee that is visiting the dam complete its work first and collect the data, he suggested.
In the face of persistence opposition by Ramachandran, the court asked him: "Shall we take that State of Tamil Nadu is not interested in the intervention by the prime minister."
As Salve witnessed his suggestion being sunk by Tamil Nadu, he told the court that no award of any tribunal has ever solved the water dispute. In the instant case, if the verdict goes in the favour of Kerala, then Tamil Nadu would move an appeal and if Tamil Nadu succeeds then Kerala will challenge it, the senior counsel said.
At the outset of the hearing Salve told the court that Kerala would provide full security to the dam and other facilities and infrastructure being manned by Tamil Nadu. He said that if some thing happens to the dam, Tamil Nadu will not only not get water but the area of the dam in Kerala will get inundated.
Earlier, in response to Tamil Nadu's plea for central forces to protect the dam and its installations, the central government told the court that it could deploy the central forces, including the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) to protect the dam, provided there was direction of the apex court or a request by the state government to that affect.
Meanwhile, earlier in the day, the court pulled up a Kerala-based NGO which sought to know what National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was doing to deal with the situation in the event of a crisis. The petitioner NGO also wanted the drying up of the dam.
The court said that the NDMA was headed by the prime minister and what made the petitioner think that the authority and the prime minister were not alive to the situation.
When counsel for the NGO said: "We do not know what discussions are taking place", the court asked him if he was aware of what is transpiring between the PMO and the NDMA, and dismissed the plea describing it "misconceived" and saying: "It (these discussions) can't be made public for making political mileage."
The 115-year-old dam is located in Kerala but its waters serve Tamil Nadu, which also manages the dam's affairs.
Tamil Nadu wants the dam's storage capacity to be increased from the current 136 feet (41.5 metres) to 142 feet (43 metres) as per a Supreme Court order, while Kerala wants a new dam in its place.